It’s really no different than telling someone in a wheelchair that she should move faster because she’s in your way.
First of all, let’s define:
ADHD is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This is a condition that affects brain development and brain activity. The main challenges for kids with ADHD are distractibility and difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity — although you can have only one or two and not all three. All kids occasionally struggle to pay attention, listen and follow directions, sit still, be calm, always say the right things at the right time, or wait patiently for something, but for kids with ADHD, the struggles are harder, happen more regularly, and often need medication or other intervention to help curtail the symptoms.
Some of us get yelled at a lot, not only by adults, but believe it or not, by classmates! Girls don’t realize that ADHD is a real thing, and telling a classmate with ADHD to “just shaaaah already,” giving us dirty looks, or telling us off afterward for wasting class time, is very hurtful. It’s really no different than telling someone in a wheelchair that she should move faster because she’s in your way.
It’s very hard for us when people — peers and adults alike — really don’t understand what ADHD is. They think we’re just not trying hard enough. It’s a real condition, but when problems aren’t physical they’re harder for other people to understand. When you see a teenager with special needs, it’s clear that there is an issue. But we look like everyone else, so we get judged, misunderstood, and people get annoyed at us, which is very painful.
ADHD often comes along with other stuff, like being very sensory or anxious. It’s different for each person. Various therapies can help, though nothing actually makes these things go away (just like there’s no cure for ADHD). These therapies can relieve a lot of the symptoms or help us manage better. Occupational therapy can help people with sensory integration, and there are methods to relieve anxiety too. It’s really no different than someone with very low muscle tone going for physical therapy or someone who has a lisp going for speech therapy. We also have muscles that need to be strengthened — you just can’t see them.
We wish you would try to look past our ADHD and accept us the way Hashem made us. I have a friend who was born with a birthmark on her arm, and another who can’t say the S sound very well. Why would I ever hold it against them? This is how Hashem made them — and Hashem created us with ADHD. After we leave the tightly structured school setting, we will actually have a lot going for us! There are many very successful adults who have ADHD; they might just need planners and secretaries to help them with their weak spots. But we’re smart, creative, and risk-takers to boot, so we can go really far.
(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 797)
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